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Slowfood Hawaii: connecting people with their food

<p>Attendees of the annual Slow Food meeting on Feb. 24 enjoy a meal together. PHOTO BY JILL JUSTICE | SPECIAL TO NHN</p>

Attendees of the annual Slow Food meeting on Feb. 24 enjoy a meal together. PHOTO BY JILL JUSTICE | SPECIAL TO NHN

<p>Slow food members join for a meal at the Slow Food Hawaii annual meeting on Feb. 24. (PHOTO BY JILL JUSTICE| SPECIAL TO NHN)</p>

Slow food members join for a meal at the Slow Food Hawaii annual meeting on Feb. 24. (PHOTO BY JILL JUSTICE| SPECIAL TO NHN)

<p>Members from all over the island attended the Slow Food Hawaii annual meeting on Feb. 24. (PHOTO BY JILL JUSTICE| SPECIAL TO NHN)</p>

Members from all over the island attended the Slow Food Hawaii annual meeting on Feb. 24. (PHOTO BY JILL JUSTICE| SPECIAL TO NHN)

Do you know that our island is home to quite possibly the largest organic honeybee operation in the world? Are you aware that Big Island farmers produce an amazing array of food from abalone to the fruit atemoya?

Do you ever wonder how to cook some of the enticing food products grown here? Do you desire to eat a more interesting and healthful diet derived from foods you can easily buy in your own neighborhood?

Slow Food Hawaii is the organization to answers those questions and many more. A chapter of Slow Food USA, the local organization provides education to consumers about what foods are locally available and how to use them. Part of the world-wide organization, Slow Food International, Slow Food USA is the unique connection between the farmer or food producer and the consumer.

“People used to think Slow Food was an elitist organization,” said Clare Bobo, current president of SFH. “But it really is about good, clean, fair food and being the link between food producers and food users.”

According to the Slow Food USA website, Slow Food International was originally founded in Italy in 1989, “to counter the rise of fast food, the disappearance of local food traditions and people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, and how our food choices affect the rest of the world. US

Slow Food USA is part of a global movement for good, clean, and fair food. …Slow Food USA advocates for food and farming policy that is good for the public, good for the planet, and good for farmers and workers,” with more than 250,000 supporters, 200 members and 225 chapters.

On the Big Island, Slow Food Hawaii is one of the biggest supporters of food and farming education in our schools. “We need more farmers,” said Bobo, “85-90 percent of our food is imported here (to the Big Island).”

According to the current governor of the Slow Food Hawaii region, Waimea resident Shelby Floyd, “There are three chapters of Slow Food Hawaii (including Oahu and Maui). As a region, Hawaii has about 300 members and about 90 members on Big Island, with probably a third of them being farmers.”

The rest of the membership includes chefs, educators and self-described “foodies.” SFH engages in many activities to fulfill the mission of Slow Food. In the past year, educational events have included cooking classes, from mozzarella cheese to chocolate. Fundraising is derived from many activities from sales of specialty foods to a camp-out in the Waipio Valley.

Bobo said that the most important events are those that are collaborative and involve people from different aspects of a central issue. One such example is the recent “Bee the Change” event which educated the public about the current worldwide crisis of dwindling honeybees. It also raised funds for various participants. More than 200 people attended the event that was a partnership between SFH, Hawaii Preparatory Academy, The Kohala Center and a local farmer.

When asked about the challenges faced by the local organization, Bobo responded without hesitation, “We need members.” SFH has big goals and its beneficiaries are spread out over a big island. It is a volunteer organization and most of its members are working full time for their livelihoods. Yet, they are passionate about SFH. At the annual meeting and potluck over the weekend, the crowd was friendly and eager to talk about topics ranging from a local beef-buying club to the upcoming breadfruit festival.

Go to SlowFoodUSA.com to join the local Slow Food Hawaii chapter for just $25 annually.